I absolutely cannot expel from my mind a string of memories about family life in that newly developing settlement of ours. It lasted for barely 20 years, but …
Inhabitants of both sexes were extremely hard working. When they arrived it was a barren land, but they left behind beautiful houses, farms, orchards, and churches. We had an incredibly beautiful, richly decorated and historical church in Beresteczko.
On the main altar was an image – a figure of Jesus, supposedly famed for its miracles. I remember to this day words of the song sung by the faithful at the beginning of every Mass:
On your knees faithful people,
Before the Jesus of Beresteczko,
Who appears, merciful
To save sinners, soothe worries
and at the end of the mass they sang:
We offer you with tears
Our towns, settlements, villages.
Keep, keep watch over us forever
Oh, our Jesus of Beresteczko
To this day I remember that melody and sing it from time to time to myself. In this church there was a very good and beautiful organ, which apparently are still there now. My older sister Halina (we called her Lusia) sang in the parish choir. I envied her very much. Sometimes I sat on the stairs leading to the choir - where children were not allowed. In this church, priests and nuns prepared children for the first Holy Communion. In Beresteczko, parents organized Sunday dances for their "teenagers", accompanied by harmonica music and party games, such as Chinese whispers or “flirt” [Ed. note Polish card game of relationships]. I have a vivid memory of my last teacher, Miss Ludwika Wowkun from Winniki near Lwów, and her lecture-lessons on personal cleanliness, hygiene, appearance, and manners. She walked with us through the hills and forest, gathering various species of sedum, plantain, clover, and taught us how to weave wreaths, which we then carried to the church for blessing, and which, after drying, our parents used to make an infused drink for newly calved cows.
It was summer. Beautiful, sunny, and hot … Fruits were already ripening on the trees, and the Jews from Beresteczko kept visiting the settlement buying unripened fruits wholesale off the trees. Children enjoyed baths in wash tubs, which were filled by their fathers with water from their wells. This water was left to warm up in the sun throughout the day.
Our mothers baked bread every week, and even on that tragic Saturday, 10 February 1940, a whole kneading-trough filled with rising bread leavening was left behind. Everything was left to its fate. All livestock and farm implements were left behind. The achievements of 20 years of hard and arduous work and sweat of our fathers and mothers - borderland settlers - were left behind.
I do not know the name of the military unit to which the settlers of Rejmontowicze belonged, but I know that many of them were from the Piłsudski Legions. There were 26 military settlers in the settlement: Asman, Babirecki, Jan Bogacki, Czesław Banaś, Józef Bartkiewicz, Adolf Ferenczak, Stefan Gągalski, Adam Gomółczak, Józef Jeger, Władysław Jeger, Lach, Łaba, Józef Malczyk, Stanisław Michalczyk, Józef Musiał, Wachman, Witold Ostrowski, Pawłowski, Jan Popowski, Ludwik Popsowski (my father), Dominik Salomonowicz, Stefan Symiński, Karol Sroka, Piotr Wierzchoń, Franciszek Zoń. There were also civil settlers: Prusinowski, Starzyk, Sztychmiler. I do not remember the others.
The settlers arrived in the settlement around 1922. Before that, the land granted to the settlers belonged to the landowner’s estate from a neighbouring village – Peremyl. I remember from the stories of my parents and neighbours that during the first ten years all settlers were very poor and struggled under difficult conditions. They lived in mud huts and had no idea about farming.
With time, Agricultural Associations and Village Housewives Associations were formed. They received loans from National Farmer’s Cooperative Bank to buy farm machinery and building materials. Houses began to replace mud huts, reapers were in the fields, and large fruit orchards and vegetable gardens were the pride of every settler whose whole family benefited from the productivity of the soil and of their labour.
Transport to Beresteczko was by horse cart. There was no highway, just a dirt road. Every Sunday we went to Beresteczko for a noon Mass. The church choir was of a high standard. Mass was attended by members of KSMP [Translator’s note: Katolickie Stowarzyszenie Młodzieży Polskiej - Polish Catholic Youth Association], "Strzelec", "Krakus", Junaks [Military youth organisation] and reservists. There were also parades on May 3 , August 15 and November 11. [Ed. note: Three dates marking the anniversary of adoption of the Constitution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1791, Feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Independence Day].
Beresteczko reportedly had 6,000 inhabitants. There was a dairy, a market on Thursdays, a large and beautiful Orthodox church, three bridges on the Styr River, on which the Sea Festival [Święto Morza] was celebrated on June 29.
My father's family plot of land was 10 hectares of arable land, 1 hectare of meadows and 1 hectare of forest. The residential house was half finished - one bedroom and kitchen already in use, and two rooms and a pantry to be finished in the summer of 1940. There was a headphone radio in the house.
In addition to the house, there was a stable, pigsty, barn and a well in the yard.
The arable land was very good. Fields of wheat, millet, rapeseed, barley, oats, buckwheat, and clover were grown. Sugar beets, potatoes and other vegetables were planted.
Horses were used for agricultural work, each house had always kept two or three of them, there were also at least two, three or four cows, a lot of pigs (6-10), a lot of chickens, a few geese, ducks and turkeys. There were two large dogs (on chains) and one small dog at home
Most of the farming tools, the chaff cutter and the fanner were owned by my father. Settlers shared seed drills and threshers. Fathers mostly worked the farms, and women and men were hired at harvest time from the nearby Ukrainian villages - Humniszcze, Peremyl and Lipy.
Life on the settlement was very monotonous and calm. The school was located in the house of the settler Banaś, who lived in Beresteczko where he had a job as a policeman. Polish, Ukrainian and Czech children went to that school. Religion was taught by a Catholic priest and an Orthodox priest.
Both my parents were very religious. In our house we performed Gorzkie Żale [Translator's note: Lenten (or Bitter) Lamentations are a Catholic devotion containing many hymns that were developed in Poland in the 18th century] and May services, [Translator's note: Devotions to Our Lady] which were later moved to a large cross standing on Ostrowski’s plot. The settlers erected it there, but I don't know on what occasion. In our house "Mały Dziennik'' and "Rycerz Niepokalanej" [Translator's note: Small Daily and Knight of the Immaculate – pre WW II Catholic publications] were read. My parents were: Ludwik Popsowski and Janina née Bielski. They both died in Russia in 1942. We were forced to leave the village of Reymontowicze on February 10, 1940.
Translation from the book
Z Kresów Wschodnich R.P. Wspomnienia z Osad Wojskowych 1921-1940
(From: The Eastern Borderlands of Poland, Memories of Military Settlements 1921-1940)
Pub: Ognisko Rodzin Osadników Kresowych (OROK)
(Association of the Families of the Borderland Settlers)
London, UK. 1992 and 1998 (out of print)
ISBN 1 872286 33 X
Province (Województwo) WOŁYŃ
EUGENIA ZAKŁADA (POPSOWSKA)
Community (Gmina) Beresteczko
District (Powiat) Horochów
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